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J Assoc Res Otolaryngol. 2006 Jun;7(2):110-24. Epub 2006 Feb 1.

Acoustic to electric pitch comparisons in cochlear implant subjects with residual hearing.

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Centre Romand d'Implants Cochléaires, Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Cantonal University Hospital of Geneva, Genève, Switzerland.


The aim of this study was to assess the frequency-position function resulting from electric stimulation of electrodes in cochlear implant subjects with significant residual hearing in their nonimplanted ear. Six cochlear implant users compared the pitch of the auditory sensation produced by stimulation of an intracochlear electrode to the pitch of acoustic pure tones presented to their contralateral nonimplanted ear. Subjects were implanted with different Clarion electrode arrays, designed to lie close to the inner wall of the cochlea. High-resolution radiographs were used to determine the electrode positions in the cochlea. Four out of six subjects presented electrode insertions deeper than 450 degrees . We used a two-interval (one acoustic, one electric), two-alternative forced choice protocol (2I-2AFC), asking the subject to indicate which stimulus sounded the highest in pitch. Pure tones were used as acoustic stimuli. Electric stimuli consisted of trains of biphasic pulses presented at relatively high rates [higher than 700 pulses per second (pps)]. First, all electric stimuli were balanced in loudness across electrodes. Second, acoustic pure tones, chosen to approximate roughly the pitch sensation produced by each electrode, were balanced in loudness to electric stimuli. When electrode insertion lengths were used to describe electrode positions, the pitch sensations produced by electric stimulation were found to be more than two octaves lower than predicted by Greenwood's frequency-position function. When insertion angles were used to describe electrode positions, the pitch sensations were found about one octave lower than the frequency-position function of a normal ear. The difference found between both descriptions is because of the fact that these electrode arrays were designed to lie close to the modiolus. As a consequence, the site of excitation produced at the level of the organ of Corti corresponds to a longer length than the electrode insertion length, which is used in Greenwood's function. Although exact measurements of the round window position as well as the length of the cochlea could explain the remaining one octave difference found when insertion angles were used, physiological phenomena (e.g., stimulation of the spiral ganglion cells) could also create this difference. From these data, analysis filters could be determined in sound coding strategies to match the pitch percepts elicited by electrode stimulation. This step might be of main importance for music perception and for the fitting of bilateral cochlear implants.

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